Teens Living With Cancer

When Rosemary Fabian was visiting her cousin Bianca Cotto, who was receiving treatment for osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer) at St. Christopher's Hospital last May, she never imagined she too would be treated as a cancer patient there just months later

Rosemary describes her first visit to the Philadelphia Ronald House as ironic.  "When I came to visit Bianca at the House, I already had cancer and I didn't even know," she said. Rosemary was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in November of 2010 and has been staying with her family at the Front and Erie House, off and on, ever since.

"I am able to count the times I have been home to Reading since I was diagnosed," Rosemary said, when asked how often she has come for treatment over the past six months.  "Yeah, we spend a lot of time here together," said Bianca.  Whether it's having dinner together at the House during inpatient treatments or spending all evening at the House, hanging out in the game room and playing pool during outpatient treatments, the girls value the time they spend together - just being teenagers. 

Through the House, the girls have also formed a new friendship with seventeen-year-old Gabriel Pozo, who has been receiving treatment for leukemia since his diagnosis last September.  Now in outpatient treatment, Gabriel spends about one night each week at the House. "I like staying at the House because we don't have to drive an hour and a half from Bethlehem every day," said Gabriel.  He also enjoys the company of Bianca and Rosemary while staying at the House and if either Bianca or Rosemary is in treatment, you will most likely see them hanging out together.  Just like forming a group of friends at school over similar interest and commonalities, Bianca, Rosemary, and Gabriel have formed that bond and perhaps a much stronger one that that.  "There are a lot of things that I can't tell my friends (at home) because they just won't understand," said Rosemary. "Yeah, like when I say: I need to get my BROVIAC - they are like what is that?" Bianca said, referring to the temporary IV line used during treatment.  Just having one another to relate to helps make it easier to cope with their current situations.  

When both Bianca and Rosemary were first diagnosed, they didn't want anyone to know they had cancer.  "I felt like it was very serious and I didn't want to share it with anybody," said Rosemary.  "I was like that in the beginning too.  I was in my own little world," said Bianca.  However, through time Bianca has become more used to living with cancer and has even helped younger oncology patients deal with their hair loss, inspiring her cousin Rosemary.  "Now I don't really care; I'll just walk around with a bald head," said Rosemary.  

Bianca, Rosemary, and Gabriel also find inspiration from their encounters with the House volunteers.  "One volunteer told me about her daughter, who had the same type of cancer as me. She now climbs ladders and everything! It's just really nice to hear," said Bianca.  "There is one volunteer who always asks my Mom how I am doing and sometimes he sends things over to the hospital for me," said Rosemary.  The volunteers have inspired Rosemary to explore opportunities for getting involved and helping the House when she is feeling better. "I really want to volunteer here. I want to give back," said Rosemary.

All three teens are anxious to get back to school in the fall. Rosemary will be starting her senior year again in September and has plans to attend college afterwards. Gabriel is currently in a home school program, and having been an honors student, is looking forwards to the challenge of his honors courses among classmates when he returns.  He is also excited to get back to his job at Wal-Mart so he can begin earning money again and start planning for college. Bianca is also anxious to begin school in the fall because she is bored at home and misses spending time with her friends.

Bianca, Rosemary, and Gabriel still have a long road of treatment and recovery ahead, but the friendships they have formed with one another will surely last through all of that.


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